Clark Commons opens

April 19, 2023

On April 19, students flocked to the newly-open, completely transformed third floor of the Shapiro Library  — 37,500 square feet — now the Stephen S. Clark Commons. The open sight lines, enhanced natural lighting, zoned spaces, and comfortable seating were well-received.

Izaak Huhn, class of `25 (LSA) described the space as "peaceful," despite the fact that most of its 200-plus seats were occupied. 

And Paige Brown, also class of `25 (LSA), said "My friends and I love the new Clark Commons. One of my favorite parts is how comfy the seating is. When spending long hours studying it’s important to be comfortable! I also love how many seats there are and the different array of them from booths to tables."

Brown's comments reflect the library's plan for flexible furnishings that adapt to a range of needs and preferences — consultative, collaborative, groups large and small, and independent. 

With construction completed, the bridge between Hatcher and Shapiro now connects the Clark Commons to the Stephen S. Clark Library on the second floor of Hatcher. 

The outdoor return drop box at the Shapiro Library remains closed for now. Find our other return locations.

What you'll find there

The Clark Commons offers:

  • Seating for more than 200 students, some in open space (collaborative and lively) and some in closed space (focused and quiet) 
  • A digital scholarship hub where visitors can access help with research data, metadata, visualization, research impact, copyright, open access, and publishing (services are by appointment)
  • Dedicated space for student-driven programming and exhibits
The space is open, but some of the finishing touches are not yet installed. Look for information about the grand opening of the completed Clark Commons early in the coming fall semester.

Students studying in the Clark Commons.

Interim Dean of Libraries Donna Hayward says, "The renovation took a little longer than we'd originally anticipated, but we're glad to be able to open before the end of the semester." 

Hayward expects the Clark Commons to serve as proof-of-concept for long-term plans to create an inviting and inspiring Hatcher-Shapiro complex that houses a thoughtfully-selected onsite collection alongside the spaces, facilities, and experts that will help students and researchers thrive.

Where are the books?

The materials moved from the third floor of Shapiro — mostly back issues of science journals — are readily available online in their digital versions. Most of the print copies have moved to the Shapiro basement, though some are shelved in remote locations and are delivered upon request.

You can browse current issues of science journals in Serials and Microforms Services on the second floor of Hatcher North.

Students studying in the Clark Commons.

The project donor

Stephen Clark's first transformational gift to the library in 2011 merged the library’s map collection, government information center, and geographical data services into the Clark Library, a new setting for research and discovery.

His gift toward creating the Clark Commons is the largest in the library’s history. His motive for giving is straightforward. He wants to “improve the experience for current and future students.”

Clark, an inventor and chairman and CEO (now retired) of Dwyer Instruments, Inc., credits the Shapiro Undergraduate Library for saving his college career as a bulwark against the temptations and distractions of college life (his fraternity brothers, and the Village Bell, a student hangout).

“I spent a lot of time in the library, and my hope is to provide students with a pleasant and comfortable space for collaboration and study,” Clark said. The library is the ideal space, he notes, because it “serves everyone at the university, and not just one school or college.”

The particular temptations of college life may have changed — the Village Bell is long gone — but distraction itself is a constant.


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